Mt. Superior and the Mt. Wolverine Loop

This Saturday, I wanted to hike something where lots of people would be around, since my usual hiking buddy had other plans and I would be flying solo. I settled for heading up LCC to Alta, where I figured lots of hikers would be taking advantage of the perfect weather. I ended up summitting 5 named peaks over 10,000′, including one more off the Wasatch 11’ers list.

Mt. Superior / Monte Cristo Peak

Mt. Superior – 11,040′
Monte Cristo Peak – 11,132′
4 miles
Vertical gain: 2700′
3:58 car-to-car including about an hour of summit lounging

Monte Cristo Peak rises tall above Snowbird ski resort, and its sub-peak Mt. Superior (without enough prominence to count in the 11’ers list) is impressive looking from Alta. Some people climb the south ridge of Mt. Superior as a technical climb, which looks like a blast. Today I tackled the normal hiking route.

I started from the trailhead just past “Our Lady of the Snows” church and headed up to Cardiff Pass, which I had visited about a month earlier. I reached the pass in about 45 minutes and continued west along the use trail.

Sunrise in Little Cottonwood
Meadow below Cardiff Pass (taken on descent)
Climber’s trail up the East ridge of Mt. Superior

There were great views along the entire ridge run, in particular, to the North looking into Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is a big area for backcountry skiing because of the steep but not cliffy terrain.

Looking north from a dip in the ridge route

After a while, the trail got steeper. There were a couple Class 3 spots but the moves were secure and the exposure to the south can be largely avoided if you stay on route.

Weaving through the quartzite ridge

Some rock on the ridge can be a bit loose but in general it is pretty good if you pay attention.

Secure, fun scrambling

After just an hour and a half, I was on top of Mt. Superior! I took a couple shots, then took off down the ridge since I planned on eating breakfast on top of Monte Cristo, the real high point.

Summit shot on Mt. Superior with Monte Cristo behind
Spectacular view to the northwest.
Easy Class 2 ridge to Monte Cristo

Getting to Monte Cristo took 10 minutes or so. It’s a walk. Breakfast time!

Awkward Monte Cristo selfie. Now 1/3 done with the Eleveners!
Best view yet of Great Salt Lake
Wide pano looking South from Monte Cristo (click to enlarge)
Triple Traverse – Sunrise, Dromedary, Broad Fork Twins

I chilled on the summit for quite a while and wanted to check whether my emergency phone would actually work, so I called up my dad and said hello. The views from the top were among the best I’ve seen since I have been in Utah, which is saying something. I think hands-down this is the coolest view of the lake (over the top of Mt. Olympus and the Wildcat Ridge). The sun was rising, it was a bit chilly, and I was loving all of it.

Eventually I finished my food and turned back. The scramble down was easier since the trail was easier to find.

Looking back at Mt. Superior. The snow was not a problem.
Cardiac Ridge (Superior’s N Ridge)

I am not sure why, but skiers were all over the place today. More power to them.

Skiers scrounging the last bits of snow for the year in Cardiac Bowl

On the way back to Cardiff Pass, I took a right turn instead of a left and ended up a few hundred yards southwest of the pass on steep but manageable scree slopes. If you hate loose rock and sidehilling (I hate both of those things) make sure you do not repeat this.

I like the colors in this one. Approaching the last ridge before Cardiff Pass

Mt. Wolverine Loop

Mt. Wolverine – 10,795′
Mt. Tuscarora – 10,600′
Sunset Peak – 10,648′
~8.5 miles
Vertical gain: ~2500′

3:50 car-to-car including many stops

By this time it was only about 10:15. What to do now? I looked at my map, and noticed how close I was to Mt. Wolverine… and being a Michigan alum, the opportunity was too much to ignore. I used the Twin Lakes Pass route, which starts at the same trailhead as Cardiff Pass but heads east instead of northwest, along a nicely graded Jeep trail. I cruised the 3 miles to the pass in about an hour, stopping to chat with a fellow hiker, Greg? who suggested that I make a loop out of it by traversing over the top of Mt. Wolverine and descending the Albion Pass road into the Alta ski area. That sounded good to me!

Water cascaded over this flat granite formation – it reminded me of the water feature in the Detroit airport

The route to the top of Mt. Wolverine is an obvious use trail through the boulder field above Twin Lakes Pass – you can’t miss it.

Mt. Wolverine’s north ridge

At the top of the ridge is a small false-summit, called “Patsy Marley Peak” by the skiers, which provides a great view of the rest of the Wolverine ridge.

Mt. Wolverine summit ridge from the north

There is an impressive cirque (bowl) beneath Mt. Wolverine which avalanches repeatedly each winter.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to climb this one except for the Michigan connection, but the cool part about the summit view is that you are looking straight down Little Cottonwood towards Salt Lake City. There is also a nice set of rocks on the summit that make a nice wind shelter. I laid in the sun for about half an hour eating a sandwich and warming up before continuing along the ridge.

Summit view from Wolverine
Hail! from the summit of Mt. Wolverine

Next on the agenda was Mt. Tuscarora, which is a minor bump on the ridge south to Catherine Pass. Unremarkable except for a nice view of Sunset Peak, the final objective for the day.

Sunset Peak from Tuscarora

I reached the pass about 15 minutes after leaving the top of Mt. Wolverine, and immediately climbed up the other side the 300′ required to reach the top of Sunset Peak.  This is one of the most accessible peaks in the Wasatch, with a maintained trail and not much elevation gain from the Albion Basin summer road.

Mt. Wolverine and Mt. Tuscarora from Sunset Peak

Sunset Peak was packed full of hikers but had some good views. Prepare for some big panoramas.

Northwest View. Mt. Superior in the middle, Mt. Wolverine at the right. It looks like a long day from this perspective!
Mega panorama (click to enlarge). Mt. Timpanogos to the south at the left, then the Bullion Divide peaks of Sugarloaf, Mt. Baldy, and the American Fork Twins. Mt. Superior is center-right to the Northwest
Southern view towards Timpanogos
Some nice lakes / reservoirs below

Another cool thing about Sunset Peak is that it sits on the divide of Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood, and Brighton in Big Cottonwood, and you can get to it from either side or do the traverse.

I descended quickly from Sunset Peak back to Catherine Pass, then headed back to the car via Albion Basin, an alpine meadow above Alta Ski Resort. I’m glad I made a loop of the trip because this is definitely a more scenic route than the way I ascended.

Mt. Superior and the Twins from Albion Basin
Picnic spot? Albion Basin
The ridge to the southwest from Albion

The other nice thing about Albion Basin is that once the summer road opens (July 4 or so) you can drive a normal car up very high and avoid a lot of the elevation gain. I saw lots of families on this section of the hike.

Back to reality

I was trying to beat 4 hours for the loop, so I booked it down the ski hill, avoiding the long road walk in favor of some moderate ski runs which made a fine trail. There is sort of a gorge you need to avoid by heading right and picking up the snowcat track near the maintenance lot at the bottom. Walked about 1/4 mile along the pavement back to my car, and the day was done. 5 named peaks over 10,000′, and a great hike through some beautiful scenery.

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